I’ve heard it said that success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out. I couldn’t agree more. And the same is true for having a healthy marriage. Having a healthy marriage depends on the tiny habits repeated every day. The question is, what are your daily marriage habits?
If you want a healthy marriage, I suggest you pursue the following five habits today!
Habit #1: Say, “I Love You”
The day you stop saying “I love you” to your spouse is the day your marriage starts to drift in the wrong direction. Why? Love leaks.
Think about it this way. You’ve probably heard it said that we all have an imaginary “love tank,” and we should try to ensure our spouse’s tank is always full. Ever wonder why that’s so hard? Your spouse’s love tank has holes in it—lots of them. Oh, and by the way…yours does too. That’s why that special “something” you did last week doesn’t mean much to your spouse today.
Since your spouse’s “love Tank” has holes, you will always be fighting an uphill battle to keep it full. But please don’t feel discouraged or pressured with this task. Although we have a responsibility to love our spouse, we don’t have a responsibility to keep our spouse’s love tank full. The deposits we make in our spouse’s tank will eventually drain, but God’s love from within the tank has an endless supply. That’s why one of the most loving things we can do for our spouse is to point them to the One who can legitimately keep the tank full.
“Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
But again, even though we don’t have a responsibility to keep our spouse’s love tank full, we do have a responsibility to express love to our spouse. Healthy marriages say “I love you” to each other a hundred different ways daily. I’ve heard it said that love unexpressed is not love at all. Since love leaks, we should constantly look for ways to remind and reaffirm our love for our spouse.
Habit #2 – Say, “I Was Wrong”
Marriage will make you miserable if you let it.
Marriage is designed to reveal your areas of weakness. When you put a husband and wife (2 sinners) together in the same house, in the same room, sleeping in the same bed…and then you throw some little sinners in the mix…your weaknesses are bound to show up from time to time. How you respond to the flaws that your marriage reveals will either make you miserable or mature.
We’ll be miserable when we minimize, hide, or even deny the weaknesses that marriage exposes in us. Consider this passage from Psalm 32:3-4:
“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.”
Because of God’s acceptance and forgiveness, He invites us to confess our weaknesses to Him (1 John 1:9) and our spouse (James 5:16) and rely on His grace to help us grow in our areas of weakness.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
When marriage reveals your weaknesses, be willing to humbly respond by saying, “I was wrong; will you please forgive me.” It’s one of the most attractive phrases you can speak to your spouse. And it’s the most significant thing you can do to turn your conflicts around.
Habit #3: Say, “I Wish”
This is your chance to be selfish…for your spouse’s sake.
Your spouse’s most significant responsibility is to love you well (Matthew 22:35-40). Does your spouse always know precisely what that looks like? Of course not! They need help.
Since your spouse’s most significant responsibility is to love you well, one of the best ways you can love them is to help them do just that. Speak the truth in love regarding how you desire to be loved. Tell them what you like and what you don’t. Please don’t make them read your mind.
This isn’t an excuse to pick your spouse apart but a means to speak the truth in love regarding what it looks like for them to love you better.
Habit #4: Say, “I Feel”
Transparency is the key to intimacy.
The goal of marriage is to become “one flesh” physically, emotionally, and spiritually (Mark 10:7-8). Physical one flesh happens with sex. Spiritual one flesh starts at the altar and continues as a husband and wife grow closer to God. And emotional one flesh is experienced when a couple has transparent communication with each other.
The goal of communication should be to know each other and be known by each other…completely. This looks like creating an environment where you and your spouse feel comfortable and secure sharing your thoughts and feelings about all areas of your life.
Be willing to share how you feel with your spouse. Also, be ready to listen to how your spouse feels. Pursue complete transparency in all of your communication.
Habit #5: Say, “I Pray”
Couples who pray together stay together.
When Star and I introduce ourselves at the beginning of our marriage conferences, I frequently say, “When Star and I first got married, we were 19 and 20. We didn’t know the first thing about marriage!” In a recent interview, we were asked what we meant by that. Looking back, the most significant thing we needed to understand about marriage is how foundational it is to put Christ at the center.
The most significant thing you can do for your marriage is to invite God to be a part of it. The best way to do this is to start praying together. Confess to God that you need Him. Thank God for your marriage. Ask Him for strength, wisdom, and protection.
This doesn’t have to look like spending 30 minutes on your knees with your spouse, but it should be a habit you commit to growing starting today. I know this is intimidating for many couples, but my encouragement is to start small and start today.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.”
Pursuing these five habits won’t protect your marriage from hard times (nothing will), but they will make it as strong as possible to get through the hard times together.
Hans co-founded Marriage Revolution with his wife, Star, in 2010. He counsels couples in The Woodlands, TX, speaks at marriage conferences around the country, and provides leadership and direction to Marriage Revolution.